Street Food on the River Bank

© Moira G. Gallaga

Oh! The aroma is ever tantalizing

the freshly baked cakes

at this street food corner

Feeling pity for those

Feeling nausea at the sight of such heavenly delight!

It is a crime to watch what we eat anywhere we go, as cuisine for our family is a cultural endeavour.©

Smiles are contagious here

The boy wipes the stool for me smiling each time

I sat on it looking at his mom when she looks back to me smiling

We never talked as we cannot understand each other!

Why should I bother when her cakes talk

On our behalf.

Exotic food/
arouses the tongue/
and pleases the empty belly.©

Attending a party tonight

On the other side of the river

A fancy restaurant, spreading its evening glitz

I will miss the freshly baked cakes, the aroma and

Yes! The smile!

04 June 2021

The Ship – A Villanelle

© Moira G. Gallaga

The ship sails soon
Either climb aboard or stay on land.
It is nine o’clock.  The ship sails at noon.

You may fear being a buffoon
If you sing and dance with the band
The ship sails soon.

It is scary to balance atop a shaky dune
But how it feels when you can stand
It is nine o’clock.  The ship sails at noon.

This Azure Window in Dwerka, Gozo was the setting for Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targaryen’s wedding. It’s where we’re also introduced to Jorah. – Game of Thrones (Island of Gozo, Malta)

Should you ride in that balloon?
It is not even manned
The ship sails soon.

To truly live in the colors of June
Or only see in shades of bland
It is nine o’clock.  The ship sails at noon.

Will you stay in your cocoon?
Or live a life that’s big and grand?
The ship sails soon.
It is nine o’clock.  The ship sails at noon.

01 June 2021


Driving

©Moira G. Gallaga

It may at times seem like a task.
But there’s no way of avoiding it
Mundane routines get boring.
Caught in gridlock, the worst thing.

Once in a while an opportunity
To drive like there’s no tomorrow,
Accelerating rapidly,
To feel the rush of extreme velocity.

I consider scuba diving, skydiving, bungee jumping and ziplining as therapy. The tamest is going on a road trip to drive as fast as I can, clearing my mind and enjoying the sensation of the wind. A mild adrenaline rush, but nothing compared to other zen-like sports like the 4 above.

Doesn’t matter where I go.
It’s about the adrenal flow.
Driving at the edge of safety,
Risking with alacrity.

I find it quite soothing:
This driving that’s way too crazy.
With Arias blaring loudly,
My mind just swelling.

I revel in the pressure, the adrenaline … the feeling of being on the edge and the fast pace that characterizes life. ©

It’s great to hit the road,
When I’m in this manic mode.
‘Course, can’t do it whenever.
 Once in a while is better than never.

Holding Out for a Hero

©Moira G. Gallaga

Our Earth is a damsel in great distress,
enchained by shackles of iron-gray smog,
only tatters of her once-lovely dress
cover her body, surrounded by fog.

Since I stopped working full time, I tracked the changes in nature as avidly as I do with world news. (Atlas Mountains, Morocco. For this view, we hiked along the Atlas Mountain range, setting off from Setti Fatma in the Ourika Valley in Morocco. The massive mountain range stretches from Morocco through Algeria and Tunisia.)

Where are her knights, her saviors, to rescue
their maiden from the villains of this tale?
With time running out, how can they get through
the downpour of acid rain, faces pale

Whenever there tends to be an ecological imbalance, Mother Nature has ways of letting us know about it. (Porto Moniz, Portugal)

against the polluted sky? Bravery,
cunning, and dedication, refusal
to let their world lapse into slavery
at the hands of corporate ritual.

We’ve all experienced how scary it is when Mother earth is making herself felt. (Jardim Estrela, Lisbon)

The princess is choking in her tower,
she needs fresh, clean air to help her flower.

30 May 2021

Facing Life’s Challenges

©Moira G. Gallaga

Life can test an individual’s will in a great variety of ways; either by having absolutely nothing happening or by having everything occurs all at one time.

We are forced to fight numerous battles throughout our lives.  There are times when we are too reliant upon others to save us. Other times, there is simply too much happening at one time for us to take care of it all.  What you are going through at any one moment should never determine what will happen over the course of your life.

Taking a break and hanging around Hawksbill Summit, 4,051 feet above sea level in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

For many individuals there are a lot of challenges in life.  Many people choose to develop a very negative world view because they always seem to go through periods of their lives in which they don’t have enough; nothing is going their way; or there is simply too much going on for them to handle.

It’s good to understand there are so many things we can’t solve. Many things we can’t control. Learn to live with that thought, that’s exactly what makes life great. I live by the rhythm of the seasons. Unpredictability. (Luanda, Angola)

Through all these, we must continue to maintain our sense of honor, stay true to our principles and possess an indomitable spirit. Work hard in life each and every day, and also work hard in specific life areas consistently.  If we do not, we will only improve in short spans and can never attain optimal growth due to the fact that growth will sometimes stop, unless we start investing more effort into that particular area.

Our Lady of Medjugorje

“Bad days are inevitable, but that doesn’t mean you should shut doors and dim your light. Even the best trip up sometime.”

17 May 2021

Be Kind to Yourself

© Moira G. Gallaga

It is hard work being an adult. There are constant demands on your time, energy and emotions from many different people. Your spouse, your children and your boss all want to be the focus of your attention at all times. While it is important to do your best and live unselfishly for others, there is another side to this coin.

It is impossible to live life to the fullest if you are not kind to yourself. You cannot give 100% of yourself to others if you have not been nurturing your personal life. The list below shows you some ways that you can carve off some private time and treat yourself right.

Rest. Relax. Recharge. Refocus. Not a luxury – it’s a necessity. (Prague, Czech Republic)

1) Schedule Personal Time – Everything of importance in our lives has to be scheduled in. If you do not set a time as if it were an appointment, your personal time will never happen. You do not need to set aside much time, maybe just 15-20 minutes to read a book, play an instrument or take a nap.

2) Join a Group – Consider joining a club or taking a class on a subject you love. It may be a book club, a diving group or a pottery class. This is a great way to get away from it all while doing something productive at the same time.

3) Get Up Earlier – You may not enjoy setting the alarm 20-30 minutes earlier, but you will be surprised at the result. Those few moments of peace and quiet before the rest of the family gets up will become your favourite part of the day.

Slow down and be kind to yourself. The results are worth it.

Nature recharges our minds and bodies. (Lillehammer, a town in Norway where a Mossad hit team killed an innocent man by mistake in the early 70s)

15 May 2021

The Value of Forgiveness

© Moira G. Gallaga

When enough time has passed to heal the wounds
gashed by words careless or intentional,
nothing could be more soothing than the sound
of relief, easily detectable

from the one you forgive once you pardon
their crimes.  They will sigh, perhaps even smile
in gratitude that you did not harden
your heart against their own. You could revile

Forgiveness is not always for those who wronged us. It’s also for ourselves so may we move on and have peace. (Lourdes, France)

their name as long as you live, but that might
only embitter your remaining years.
Better, then, to lighten the darkest night
of a guilt face enshrouded with fear.

“Forgiveness: You cannot afford to withhold forgiveness. Nothing will destroy your life more surely, for there is a great hidden grief in the denial of forgiveness. Your heart is so heavy from what you have not forgiven that you bear the offenses of another as if they were your own.” – Glenda Green

The best of men know well how to forgive their enemy
Their magnanimity cements their reputation for posterity.

Mistakes were my teachers/
I’ve learnt well. ©

14 May 2021

Upheavals

©Moira G. Gallaga

The start of 2020 was the end of one chapter of our life and the beginning of a new one. It was time to uproot ourselves once again and go home to the Philippines. It’s all part and parcel of the life we live and have chosen. It takes a lot of planning and preparation to move one’s life from one country to another, an upheaval of sorts. But this is our 5th time, so we got everything in hand. Slight difference is that our son decided to remain in Portugal, start his own chapter of his life separate from ours. No worries, we knew early on in our diplomatic posting that was his plan. If anything, it just ensured that Portugal would feature a bit prominently in our travel plans in the future.

Lisbon to Manila, 31 January 2020
Homeward Bound, 31 January 2020

Well, what we thought would have been a routine upheaval has suddenly turned into a major one courtesy of the Covid-19 pandemic. We didn’t see this one coming, and those assumptions, plans and expectations related to our return home all went flying out the window once Covid-19 went into full swing and started wreaking havoc on everyone’s lives and peace of mind the world over. It’s fair to say that no one anywhere really saw this coming, that this pandemic was a truly unprecedented situation but that still provided little comfort. The restrictions in movement, the enforced isolation, the anxiety and the mental toll this all brought about was further aggravated by decisions deemed pragmatic at the time before Covid-19. We figured we didn’t need much space in our residence as we would be taking every opportunity to be out and about, reconnecting with friends, visiting family and relatives, exploring the Philippines and the nearby region. Tension has suddenly become an uninvited guest in our home due to the nature of remote work and the setup of our cramped home. Not to mention loss and grief with their unannounced visits and rising frequency. Nothing to do but to cope, adjust and make the most of what is a truly difficult and challenging situation.

Sad to see closed restaurants … lockdowns … emptiness, both in place and soul. (Turkey, 23 December 2020 to 02 January 2021)

A year has passed and life still remains upended. However, it wasn’t without its good moments. Notwithstanding the challenges of traveling during a pandemic, the 3 of us managed to get together for Christmas and New Year in Istanbul, plus I also got to spend almost a month with our son in Portugal. Wonderful and brief moment, but well worth the effort, the risks and the cost to pull it off. A year has passed, and one is tempted to say we have slowly adapted to the “new normal” (I hate this term). Perhaps, but for me that was really just a matter of survival. We haven’t been really living this past year, at least not in my case. I am a wanderer at heart, I seek experiences, sights, tastes and sounds. I yearn for some semblance of normalcy that existed before this pandemic came around and turned everything inside out.

A challenging year behind us/No guarantees it will get better/But a new year always ushers hope/Vanishing the fear and dread/Let us strive to make it better now. © (Hagia Sofia, Istanbul)

The vaccines have started to arrive. It represents a light at the end of this constricted tunnel that is our current existence. I look forward to the promise it brings, of the opportunity to get our lives back on track. They say life won’t be the same after the pandemic, and I will agree to that. What I am counting on, however, is that life can be and will be better with the shackles gone and our spirits and being once again unleashed and free.

Istanbul to Lisbon, January 2021
Marsaxlokk, Malta (December 2018)

25 April 2021

Her Dreams of Travel Surpasses Everyone

© Moira G. Gallaga

Her dreams of travel surpassed our own

Talking of adventures in the north, as kids

Laughing and boasting and drinking until day

And bringing her to her knees in laughter

It was Verona she longed for

My birthday lunch, camping at the Sahara Desert

In the darkest nights she drove, breaking the speed limit

Longing for the wind in her hair

Down to the harbour, where the boats would leave

And she watched them fade away in tears

Waiting for another place

North African meal for my birthday lunch

She would walk for miles down the highway

With a flashlight and a backpack

Looking for the little boy she called her man

Who’d promised her everything

Her spirit skimming along the shadows and the tarmac roads

Imperator Furiosa leading the way to freedom © (Quad Biking in Morocco)

And dreaming in her bed she’d see great pyramids

Under an endless red-orange evening sky

European towers and the river on a cool night

Desert villages filled with spices

Waking up with the window wide and a beating heart.

My travel spoon collection representing all the travels I made. This is not complete, as I only started when I was in college and there are countries without travel spoons as part of their souvenir items. ©

24 April 2021

Diplo-Tales: Dupont Circle Roundabout – Merry- Go-Round from Hell

©Moira G Gallaga

(Note: A blast from the past during our diplomatic posting at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC. I wrote this in 2011)

After three years driving the same roads every week you would know your way around, correct? Well, I don’t.

Like I need any more “idiot me” moments, right? However, in my defence, I’m referring to a particularly nasty piece of road known as Dupont Circle in Washington D.C. Anyone who has ever driven in it would probably understand where my confusion and distress comes from.

The Bermuda Triangle of Roundabouts

Whoever decided that a roundabout with ten—read that, ten!—exits was a good idea should be back in school, relearning how to design roads. There are also two segregated lanes in the roundabout, just in case you decide you don’t feel like getting off the Merry-Go-Round for a while and instead want to kick back, relax, and listen to the music.

If that weren’t confusing or challenging enough already, the centre of the roundabout has a nice little park with trees and a fountain. It is also full of people and has got a number of crosswalks. So while navigating the maze that is Dupont Circle you must be on the lookout for pedestrians as well as your intended exit of that roundabout. I get this sense that in their eyes are looks of mirth, as if they know I’ve travelled this road every week and still have to call my husband for directions because even my GPS is befuddled by Dupont Circle. At least I’m not the only one.

I work at the Philippine Embassy, WDC. As if I’m not already late enough, I have trouble navigating the roads outside the Embassy. There’s this one time I saw Resty, a colleague of mine, and then I realized “Oh, God! This is already near the Ambassador’s residence.” A second and closer look at the surroundings confirmed my belated realization. This was the other side  of the diplomatic enclave called Embassy Row. Our Embassy was in the opposite direction across Dupont Circle. I was supposed to exit Dupont Circle towards the South but ended up going North, the merry-go-round from Hell had got me disoriented again. Needless to say, I don’t tell my colleagues about my fights with Dupont Circle. I’d never hear the end of it. The forthcoming jokes would have been relentless.

My husband offers a chuckle every time I call him. Those chuckles were sounding a bit forced after a while, but there’s nothing I can do. When my mechanical GPS fails me I must turn to my human GPS. He’s gotten used to it, and he would say the same thing every time. I think he had the directions written down, a little sticky note in his wallet. He’s used to communicating with people and being patient as he tries to reach a consensus on difficult issues. In this case, garnering his wife safe passage to work.

While I’m driving in circles trying to figure out the right exit again or how to get back to the proper lane within the roundabout, peering at the roads that all look the same with their asphalt and sides of buildings and trees and cars, my fingers hit the speed-dial. My husband had learned to anticipate my calls in that he always picks up on the first ring and automatically asks which building I’m near at to serve as a reference.  I describe it and he tells me the next time I pass it to go a certain number of exits in order to get out of the right one. I haven’t the faintest idea how he knows which exit I should be taking by my less-than-impressive building descriptions. I have a hard enough time recognizing the building for my next loop around the Merry-Go-Round.


I don’t know how Washington D.C. locals do it. Dupont Circle isn’t the only roundabout in Washington D.C. It is the worst though. I guess once you’ve conquered the worst of roundabouts the others are like mere pebbles on a pathway.

16 September 2011